I know that Ocean Mouth Packer is going to pick the chalks, the favorites, the obvious. He's strictly vanilla ice cream. But I'm going to give you some of those darkhorses that they love in the Bluegrass.
I can't believe how big the NCAA tournament has gotten since my Marquette team won it in 1977. The money is so big that I really think it's unfair for four teams to each be getting anywhere from $750,000 to $1 million.
I'd like to see all the teams in Division I-A get a check for the same amount. A hit of, say, $25,000 would mean a lot to an Xavier of Ohio or a Northern Michigan.
I'm really glad that those postseason conference tournaments are over and that we're going into the big show. Postseason tournaments are run mostly for the benefit of the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-best teams in a league, not to mention the league kitty. They're strictly social functions that have nothing to do with basketball. They have no value at all as far as I can see.
In the East, I like Georgetown, Southern Methodist, Illinois and De Paul to advance to next week's regional in Providence, R.I. That means I'm not picking Georgia Tech, the No. 2 seed in the regional, and Chicago of Loyola, the No. 4 seed. I like SMU because I think center Jon Koncak will rise to the occasion and guard Carl Wright has outstanding athletic ability. Illinois has an excellent tournament offense and a really deep bench. I see no reason for De Paul to eat chokeberries.
As for the West, give me St. John's, Kentucky, N.C. State and Virginia Commonwealth. The surprise here is Kentucky, which I think will beat Washington and Nevada-Las Vegas. Kentucky's style is right for this sectional and, in Kenny Walker, it has one of the top 10 players in the country. For St. John's, it could be a matter of double-digit victories over Southern and the Iowa-Arkansas winner.
My picks in the Southeast are Michigan, Maryland, Kansas, and North Carolina. No big surprises here, except that I'm picking Maryland over LSU, the No. 4 seed in the regional. The Terrapins have the ACC's best player in Len Bias, and a guard who creates tremendous problems in Adrian Branch. Otherwise, I like Michigan's confidence and cohesion and the North Carolina inside game.
That leaves the Midwest, where my picks are Oklahoma, Louisiana Tech, Duke and Memphis State. This leaves out Ohio State, the No. 4 seed in the region, but I like Louisiana Tech because, in Karl (The Mailman) Malone, it has a carrier who not only will deliver, but who might even ring twice. The nice thing about Oklahoma is the unselfishness of Wayman Tisdale and the solid perimeter shooting that will keep teams from packing it in around him. Duke's only soft spot, at center, won't show up in this round. Both Oklahoma and Memphis State are potential Final Four teams.